A basic principle of health and wellness coaching is that humans being are a holistic system. People have several seemingly individual and discreet aspects that make up who they are in the world. Everyone has a physical body. Within the body, there is a brain that is responsible for the mental aspect of our life. People also experience emotions, have social interactions, as well as a spiritual aspect of something more than or beyond their individual self. While it is possible to talk about the physical-mental-emotional-social-spiritual aspects as separate “things,” these cannot be divided within a person. In order to experience health and wellness in one’s life, it is necessary to give attention to all aspects. This means having a holistic perspective of people.
The most basic and obvious part of a person’s being is the physical aspect. Though there are many sizes and shapes and variations, every person has a body. As the most tangible of the various aspects, most people think of “health” as simply the condition of the body. A person is “healthy” if there are no signs or symptoms of disease. Disease happens to the body. People feel pain and soreness in their body. A person interacts with the world through the body. Though the body is a tangible whole, it is comprised of 13 individual systems. The skeletal, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and others are systems within the system of the body. Thus, the body is a picture of a holistic system of human life.
The nervous system is also a part of the body. Although it is not yet totally understood, the brain and nerves of a person are somehow responsible for the mental aspect of a person’s life. The brain tissue is found inside of the skull with nerves running throughout the body. A person cannot so easily point to the location of their mind. There are instruments to measure the electrical energy and oxygen consumption of the brain tissue. Measuring thoughts at this point is not possible. No one knows how the brain produces thought. Although the connection between the brain and how it produces thought is not clear, there is no doubt that a person’s thoughts have a direct effect on the body. The clearest example is the “fight or flight” response. Either a real or imagined event that seems dangerous will cause some specific reactions in the body. The workings of the brain or mind cannot be separated from the physical body.
In a similar way, a person cannot separate their thoughts from their emotions. There is a complex interaction between brain tissue, thoughts, and a person’s feelings. Usually, a person thinks about something and emotions follow in line with the thoughts. When a person remembers or imagines a pleasant situation or experience, they feel happy. When a person remembers or imagines an unpleasant situation or experience, they feel sad or upset. It is also possible for persistent emotions or moods to affect one’s thoughts and body. A person that experiences clinical depression has a difficult time remembering or imagining positive life experiences. Clinical depression also results in a weakened immune system that results in increased risks of illness. The branch of science called psychoneuroimmunology has clearly demonstrated that body, mind, and emotions directly influence each other.
There is an old saying, “No man is an island.” While there are some people that choose to withdraw from the world and live as hermits, most people have a social aspect to their life. Family, friends, and neighbors influence a person’s thoughts and feelings for better or worse. The state of a person’s body, thoughts, and emotions will influence a person’s social interactions. Studies have shown that without supportive and nurturing relationships, people have an increased risk of becoming ill and dying. On the other hand, people that have a strong social network live longer and get well faster.
The final aspect of the human system is the most abstract. There are many concepts that attempt to describe the spiritual aspect of a person. Many people define the spiritual aspect as the soul or spirit of someone. Some people equate the spiritual aspect with consciousness. Still others say that the spiritual aspect relates to a sense of something outside of or greater than one’s self. There is a minority of people that reject the idea of any spiritual aspect. Regardless of the definition, a person’s beliefs about spirituality have a tremendous influence on their life. It affects the foods that may or may not eat as well as physical practices or rituals done on a daily to yearly basis. One’s beliefs about spirituality can set boundaries regarding the kinds of thoughts and feeling that are acceptable and unacceptable. One’s spirituality can influence who a person may or may not interact with or sets limits on how they may interact. Although the spiritual aspect is itself abstract, it has an obvious and direct impact on every part of a person’s life.
In summary, human beings are a holistic system. People are integrated body-mind-emotion-social-spiritual beings. These various aspects are often talked about as isolated things. In regards to health and wellness, the entire system must be taken into consideration with all of its complexity. A health and wellness coach can facilitate a client to achieve their desired outcomes as well as experience life transformation. By giving appropriate attention to all aspects, a person can experience true healing or wholeness (healing comes from the Old English word hāl which means whole).
Be Strong and Live Well